I spent part of last week in Honduras spending some time with the men and women of Mission Upreach, a church planting organization in western Honduras. I missed most of the subzero temps here in the Southeast and the ice-storm-craziness that came with it. However, I did NOT miss out on the craziness at the Atlanta airport caused by the storm, specifically the 1,000+ flights that were cancelled due to the inclement weather. But that’s another story. I was slightly inconvenienced; nothing more. I know many others had their travel plans significantly altered by the storm, so I’m thankful.
I did have a pretty crazy experience on my return flight, though. About 30-45 minutes outside of Atlanta, we hit a pretty good sized pocket of turbulence. In my flying experience, you might have a minor bump or two when you hit some turbulence, nothing more. This was different. First of all, this pocket of turbulence was way more than “a minor bump or two.” A couple of times, I actually came up out of my seat. Seriously. And I’m not just talking about a little rough spot that lasts 5-10 seconds. I’m talking about a good 90 seconds of shaking, dipping, bouncing around. Ordinarily, I don’t get too scared by situations like this. In fact, I sort of find them amusing. I usually think to myself, “Ah, no big deal, we’ll pull out of it here in a second.” But after a minute or more, I began to seriously wonder if we’d make it out alive!
When we hit the first pocket of turbulence, this lady behind me let out a scream of surprise. After the second bump — one that lifted me out of my seat and caused us to feel like we were in a freefall for a couple of seconds — she starts screaming at the top of her lungs. Honestly, I couldn’t tell if she was scared or if she was having a baby. I looked out of the corner of my eye to see her clawing at the plane window, like a cat pawing at a ball of yarn or something. It was nuts. Other people started murmuring, semi-yelling, calling out, “What’s going on?” and “Shut up!” Another couple of bumps and I honestly heard someone yell, “We’re going to die!” I don’t think he was joking, but I can’t be sure.
Somewhere amid the pandemonium, I also heard people calling out to Jesus. Someone just a row or two back started audibly praying, “Jesus, save us. Jesus, please save us.” I heard another guy further back praying, “Lord, please just put your hands underneath this plane and guide us home. We need you, Lord.” It was all such a surreal experience. The sense of fear was absolutely palpable, but even in the chaos, it was strangely comforting to hear people calling out to Jesus.
Of course, in a matter of minutes, the turbulence was over. As soon as we leveled back out, the passengers erupted in a round of applause. We did the same thing when we landed.
I don’t pretend to know how God works. Who am I to say that He didn’t put His hands underneath our plane to guide it home. But what I found most interesting about the whole experience was the overt way many of us turned to Jesus in the face of uncertainty. Nobody seemed too troubled by these politically incorrect prayers “in the name of Jesus.” I’m also reminded of the old adage: Many want a Savior. Far fewer want a Lord.
However, it happened, I’m thankful to have made it safely home. And I’m thankful for the promise of God, who says He will never leave us nor forsake us.